Buying titles for the little gamer in your life can be a difficult task. Especially if they’re of the age that bright colours and fun take precedent over playing GTA. So you’ll want to get it right this Christmas.
Disney Universe is a good place to start in addition to De Blob 2 and the tougher Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. It’s cheery, inoffensive, impossible to hit a Game Over screen and has so many playable characters that kids might even still be playing it by New Year’s.
It’s an action-platformer, played out across a wide range of Disney locations. Pirates of the Caribbean, Wall-E, Lion King and Aladdin for starters.
Playing single-player, the game is a simple pleasure. Smack enemies, break boxes, collect coins, find missing machine parts and use mobile canons or rafts to blast barricades and distant switches. Water balloons are used for extinguishing fires and watering seeds to grow climbable trees.
Enemies have a Heartless/Tron crossover thing going on, along with a flavour of the current film world you’re playing. They’re rogue AI theme-park robots that have gone evil. Think a family-friendly version of the sci-fi movie Westworld, but set in Disneyland.
There’s a rich range of playable characters to play as, or costumes to wear I should say. You play as strange blue creatures wearing famous Disney names. They’re more than a little creepy. The blue creatures aren’t integral to the story, so it’s baffling as to why you can’t just play as the proper characters instead.
Regardless, every character plays the same melee combat style. There are no unique character abilities like the Lego games. Each character can be levelled up though, making their attacks stronger. Progressing through the game’s stages is easy enough to encourage younger gamers, as tasks are much simpler than the Lego series, which often suffer from a considerable lack of signposting.
Multiplayer is clearly supposed to be a big part of the game, with local four-player support available. After playing solo for a few hours, I roped in a partner to try it out. The cramped levels and shared camera caused problems though. The camera doesn’t split as in Lego Pirates, making searching for hidden items and platforming awkward when separated. When enemies flood a small space, it’s hard to keep track of where you are and players can accidentally take each other out when blindly hacking away at the attack button.
You’ll always respawn after a few seconds, even if you both die at the same time. So it’s impossible to hit a Game Over screen. But when the action feels so restricted and congested, it’s hard to be grateful. All those respawns from accidental friendly fire beatings make it hard work trying to nail a gold rating too.
These aren’t game-breakers, but it’s frustrating all the same given the game obviously wants to be played with friends. However, with easy-going fun, lots of unlockables and a surprisingly long story mode it’s better than most games aimed at gaming’s youngest generation.
- Easy gameplay
- Lots to unlock
- Levels reflect the films well
- Weird costumes instead of proper characters
- Co-op can be awkward
- Very repetitive
Disney Universe is a rare example of a kid’s co-op game. So if you’re a parent eager to play games with your child, this is a good place to start. It’s enjoyable in small doses and the simple controls and gameplay make it very accessible.